In the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales, devastating floods have affected large areas, stranding hundreds of people and causing widespread destruction and loss. In Queensland, The Salvation Army is supporting those stranded by floodwaters as well as emergency services personnel and volunteers, while in northern New South Wales Salvation Army teams and personnel are helping with the clean-up operation.
In New South Wales the flooding began on 2 February. In the town of Moree, a Salvation Army Emergency Services team responded immediately, serving hundreds of meals at an evacuation centre to evacuees, state emergency services crews and others for several days.
In Queensland, the hardest-hit towns were St George, Roma, Dalby, Mitchell and Charleville.
On Sunday, February 5, Salvation Army Emergency Services crews from Dalby, Caboolture and the Gold Coast were flown in an Australian Defence Service Chinook helicopter to Mitchell, where they served hundreds of meals at an evacuation centre. Captain Mark Bulow (Salvation Army Outback Flying Service Pilot and corps officer at Dalby) also flew the service’s helicopter to Mitchell, bringing essential supplies for the centre.
Salvation Army volunteers served meals at an evacuation centre in St George until most of the town was evacuated to a safer area. A team also flew to Charleville and served hundreds of breakfasts and lunches at the evacuation centre.
An evacuation centre at the RNA Showgrounds in the Queensland capital, Brisbane, catered for those arriving from inland areas. Salvation Army teams served meals and assisted with urgent needs.
As the floodwaters recede, Salvation Army personnel and volunteers are helping residents as they assess the damage and start cleaning up their homes. “The situation in the evacuation centre is starting to ease but much needs to be done as the recovery process begins,” says Norm Archer, Salvation Army Emergency Services Director for the Australia Eastern Territory.
“Support will be needed for some time,” adds Captain Chris Shadbolt (corps officer, Moree). “Once people head home and see the damage, that’s when the emotional things start to kick in. We want to let the community know we are still here—even when the clean-up is over.”
It’s not all bad news. Captain Bulow is aware that, as water levels lower throughout the state, people’s spirits are lifting. “A lot of people are getting back to some sort of normality,” he says. “Some are getting payments through so they can start purchasing food and necessities instead of coming to the evacuation centres for help.”
In Roma, the clean-up has begun and Salvation Army personnel and volunteers are continuing to offer assistance. Norm Archer affirms: “We’ll continue to support every affected community as long as we are needed.”